Saturday, December 12, 2009

Who Will Win the Heisman?

This year, for the first time in recent memory, there is some suspense about the outcome of the Heisman Trophy voting.

In many quarters, the favorite is probably Alabama's Mark Ingram, And, after his performance in Alabama's rout of defending national champion Florida in last Saturday's SEC championship game, it's hard to argue the point.

Alabama has won just about everything else over the years. Of course, I suppose that any school that had Bear Bryant as its coach for a quarter of a century was bound to receive just about every honor in college football at one time or another.

But, strangely enough, no 'Bama player has ever won a Heisman Trophy.

Nebraska, on the other hand, has had Heisman winners — three of them, in fact.

And's Gene Menez thinks Nebraska defensive end Ndamukong Suh is going to walk away with the statue — which would be remarkable on many levels, not the least of which would be the fact that (with the exceptions of sometime–cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997 and sometime–linebacker Ernie Davis in 1961) defensive players are almost never Heisman recipients.

That alone probably makes Suh a sentimental favorite. And his performance against Texas in the Big 12 championship game no doubt endeared many fans to him. Whatever the reason for his ascendance, Drew Sharp writes, for the Detroit Free Press, that Suh adds excitement to the Heisman race. Indeed he does.

But there are other candidates who have been invited to the ceremony in New York tonight. Lenn Robbins of the New York Post says Stanford's Toby Gerhart, the nation's leading rusher, gets his vote.

A strong case can be made for Texas' Colt McCoy, who became the winningest quarterback in college football history this season. I think the case for another quarterback, Tim Tebow, is not as solid, primarily because the numbers he compiled this season did not match the numbers he put up two years ago when he won the Heisman as a sophomore.

Well, whoever wins the trophy, Monte Burke makes a good point when he writes about the Heisman's "curse" in Forbes.

"In the last 20 years, only three Heisman winners have gone on to become true NFL stars," he observes. "The overwhelming majority of winners merely got a quick cup of coffee in the big leagues, then moved on to a new career. Some never even made it that far."

It hasn't always worked out that way. Roger Staubach, for example, won the Heisman in 1963, then put his NFL career on hold while he fulfilled his military obligations. But he led the Dallas Cowboys to their first two Super Bowl victories, as well as two Super Bowl appearances against the juggernaut of the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Steelers. And O.J. Simpson became the first player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a season.

But Burke is right when he says most recent Heisman winners haven't made much of a ripple in the NFL pond. For all intents and purposes, a Heisman winner's football career has ended when he was handed the trophy.

Yet, when one looks at this year's field and realizes that all five finalists were invited to tonight's ceremony — an indicator, perhaps, that Stewart Mandel of may have been on to something when he wrote that this year's vote could be the closest ever — one will see a great deal of talent.

It's hard to imagine that most will not thrive in the pros.

Of course, that doesn't mean that the one who gets the statue tonight will be one of those who thrives.

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